Written by Vinny Messana Thursday, 19 September 2013 00:00
Representing Team USA is a tremendous honor, even for athletes and coaches who have had illustrious careers in their respective sports. For Williston Park resident, Bill Jaffe, it was extra special, coming full circle.
A former standout hockey player at the University of Michigan in the late 1980s, Jaffe had the honor of coaching the USA men’s ice hockey team to a silver medal in the Maccabiah tournament in Israel last month. It was the first time that ice hockey was a part of the tournament since 1997, when Jaffe was team captain.
“It was a wonderful experience being with that group of players,” said Jaffe. “The players were fantastic people and did everything they were asked. It was a real treat.”
The Maccabiah is an international sporting event for Jewish athletes held in Israel every four years. The athletes are generally aged between 19 and 25. The event involves nearly every sport and has featured notable athletes such as Mark
Spitz, who won seven Olympic gold medals as a swimmer.
Overall, Team USA finished second out of 19 participating countries with 191 medals during the tournament. Only Israel finished ahead of them, with 411.
Hockey is not a very popular sport in Israel, which posed a bit of a challenge. There is only one full size rink in the entire country. Jaffe called it a “unique experience,” coming back 16 years later.
“Going as a coach, I viewed it from a different perspective,” he said. “I understand things a little different now.”
Since his time as a player, Jaffe has been around the NHL for 15 years as a color commentator and analyst on various networks. He began with the Chicago Blackhawks’ radio network and moved on to the Atlanta Thrashers before making a name for himself as the New York Islanders commentator alongside veteran game-caller Howie Rose. He is now an analyst on the NHL Network.
Still, Jaffe’s greatest thrill is being involved with the development of the next breed of great hockey players. “Playing in Israel gave these players great experience that will benefit them.